Saturday, 25 March 2017
Local government to administer EU citizens' registration
Memorandum to Dept of Exit to EU
The 3 Million Alternative White Paper which Nicolas Hatton presented at our meeting with you touches on this issue when it drew on the inadequacy of the current permanent residence application process, on the combative Home Office attitude to what should have been an "automatic" approval and on the need for primary legislation to create a new status which could supplant the permanent residence programme. The3Million AWP gave a full list of all the rights which the new legislation should guarantee and stressed the need to encompass all EU citizens legally resident here before a mutually agreed demarcation date. 3 Million recognize that, following the enactment of that legislation, there will be a need "for the Home Office to undertake a vast programme of registration" but they have not yet had the opportunity to suggest how that registration is to be administered speedily and fairly for all EU citizens.
As Convenor of the "A Fair deal for Poles in UK" letter, which appeared as a privately crowdfunded advertisement in the parliamentary magazine "The House" on December 9th,2016, (copy enclosed),. I have discussed this with members of the Polish community as well as with councillors and MPs and would like to suggest an option which was published by me in "The Observer" on February 26th. Please treat this submission as being supplementary to the document prepared by the 3 Million.
It is apparent that local authorities are already in the best position to arrange the new registration and to issue appropriate IDs to their local EU residents as they are already responsible for local registers of births, deaths and marriages, the electoral roll and have access to social service, library and school records. The Home Office already outreaches the applications for UK citizenship to local government and this appears to be both effective and popular. They can draw on the additional records held by the Home Office and the Department of Work and Pensions where necessary, but they already have experience in issuing bus passes, blue badges and similar documents to their own residents under rules laid down by national legislation. Local government officials have a more inclusive work ethic in comparison with, say, the Home Office, which tends to seek to exclude where possible by insisting that the onus lies with the EU applicant to provide the correct information. In fact the Home Office has been responsible for a large number of much publicized misjudgements recently in relation to granting EU citizens a permanent residence that was promised to be "automatic", including the threat for EU citizens to leave the United Kingdom (since withdrawn). Now that the government has opted for a reciprocal arrangement with EU countries over future guarantees for EU citizens (against our advice), the Home Office approach would begin to be commented on very critically by media and governments in other EU countries if they followed their usual procedures..
Council staff on the contrary will be able to initiate contact with EU households in theirarea with a view to ensuring a swift and positive registration that reassures EU citizens that they are welcome here. This in turn would be positively interpreted by the governments of EU countries as they prepare the legislation to ensure an equally secure future for UK citizens in their territory. Also the extent of their long term records are such that identity fraud would be highly unlikely. Local council staff have the further incentive to perform because by increasing the number of successful registrations they are sustaining their tax base. The need for a speedy process of registration and issue of ID's is is further justified by the fact that in many areas NHS staff are now requiring identification from foreigner patients who may initially seem to qualify possible Overseas Visitor Status. EU citizens need to be reassured of a continued automatic access to a free NHS service without discrimination or undue bureaucracy. .
It is recognized that currently councils are under enormous budgeting pressures as their central government grants are reduced and they may be reluctant to take on new tasks unless they are externally funded. Therefore the administrative cost of registering EU citizens could be covered from a central fund, ring-fenced entirely for this purpose, in the hands of the Treasury or the Home Office.
Let us remember that this will be but a one off exercise lasting at most two or three years. It will not be a prolonged system that will last without end and therefore it will be relatively simple to budget for this expenditure. It remains vital to perform this task quickly and efficiently as soon as the legislation is passed by parliament as Poles and other EU citizens have come here in good faith covered by the UK’s adherence to EU rules and they have contributed considerably to the UK economy and to the social and cultural fabric of this nation. It is important also to their children, even those born here, who see their future in this country, but whose parents may feel sufficiently insecure to choose to leave the UK should their registration not be administered smoothly.
The international implications of this legislation and its eventual implementation are such that normal Home Office immigration rules and practices should be sufficiently modified to ensure that EU citizens retain theur confidence that their future status in this country is assured, that the interests of UK citizens abroad are also not affected adversely and that other aspects of UK-EU relations are not jeopardized by this process. The treatment of Polish exiles in 1946 and Displaced Persons from German camps in 1947 are a good precedent as to how the Home Office was able to let Polish and other applicants complete their registration based on undocumented statements about themselves. These registrations were completed over a 2 year period for more than 300,000 citizens but it was considered to be in the country's interest that this should take place.
I hope you can give my submission the same care and attention which you gave the well documented 3 Million alternative White Paper. After all we are all seeking a solution that best serves the interests of both the United Kingdom and the EU citizens in this country.
Wiktor Moszczynski 24th March 2017